Stay in Shape This Winter: Expert Advice from Endurance Athlete Kelly Halpin

Stay in Shape This Winter: Expert Advice from Endurance Athlete Kelly Halpin

Kelly Halpin is a Wyoming native who grew up exploring the mountains and forests around Grand Teton National Park. Today she’s a professional endurance athlete with a long list of accomplishments from mountain running to climbing to snowboarding. She’s also a committed environmentalist who encourages people to get outside and protect amazing wild places through her adventures and her art

We can all learn a thing or two from Kelly’s lifelong commitment to athleticism. Here are her tips for staying in shape in the winter.

Staying in shape for mountain running can be a challenge in Jackson Hole, WY. We start getting snow up high as early as August, and it can be as late as July that our highest trails melt again. That’s 11 months guaranteed of potential snow travel. This year I did my first winter run at the end of August up Disappointment Peak in Grand Teton National Park. It was so snowy above the treeline that my partner and I didn’t even try to summit. By October all my runs were on snow and will continue to be until late April or May.

So how do you stay in shape for mountain running when you live in an ice box? I find touring and bootpacking in the backcountry, supplemented with a few days of running each week, is the answer. At least a few times a week I head to Teton Pass to boot up Mount Glory. Carrying my gear and supplies, I get a solid weighted workout with roughly 1600 feet of elevation gain. I can do a lap car-to-car in under an hour and go for a second lap if I want to. There are a few comparable hikes in the backcountry outside of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort as well. 

Touring is also a great way to stay in shape and is usually the only way to get deep into the mountains in the snow. I love splitboarding since it allows me to travel miles and miles and get a ton of elevation gain. The winter backcountry travel keeps my glutes and leg muscles strong for summer adventures, and it’s the closest thing I can find to my meditative long runs. I’m an experienced backcountry traveler, and I only go into this terrain if conditions allow. Cross-country skiing is a great and much less dangerous option for outdoor winter workouts.

I still run throughout the winter as well to ensure healthy muscle firing and memory. I try to get out on runs at least four days a week in the winter, even if they’re much shorter distances than in the summer. Usually by February I can start ramping up the mileage as the days get slightly longer and warmer. Gym workouts are a really great option, although I personally can’t stand treadmills -- I even fell off one once. I’ll run outside as long as temps stay above zero and it’s not the middle of a blizzard. 

Even on a nice day in the winter, dressing for the weather is key. Kelly recommends wearing a midweight Merino wool base layer because it breathes, wicks sweat and will keep you dry and comfortable. Whatever it takes, getting outside in the winter is guaranteed to keep your body and mind in good shape for spring and summer adventures.

Photo: Will Saunders Photo


  • Diane Halpin on

    Really beneficial advice in this well-written article! I wear medium weight merino wool layers every day under my riding clothes because even Florida can drop to freezing, about three times every winter!

  • Diane Halpin on

    Really beneficial advice in this well-written article!

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